News Local/State

U of I Hires Lovie Smith As New Football Coach

Lovie Smith and Josh Whitman at the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium.

Newly-named U of I football coach Lovie Smith and athletic director Josh Whitman pose at Memorial Stadium in a photo posted by Whitman on his Twitter feed. Josh Whitman/University of Illinois

The University of Illinois says former NFL coach Lovie Smith will be named the next football coach for the Illini.  Athletic Director Josh Whitman will make the annoucement official at a Monday afternoon news conference.

Smith, who was head coach of the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was announced as coach Monday and replaces Bill Cubit. Cubit was fired Saturday after one season in charge at Illinois.
Smith said in a news release that he did not hesitate to take his first college head-coaching job and can't wait to "start our move to make Illinois a contender for Big Ten titles." 

“We will play an exciting brand of football that will make our fans, alumni, student body and members of the University community extremely proud," he said.
Smith coached the Buccaneers for two years and had an 8-24 overall record. He was fired in January.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Photo Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Smith and the U of I have a six-year agreement calling for payments of $2 million annually for 2016 and 2017, $3 million for 2018, $4 million for 2019 and $5 million annually for both 2020 and 2021. He will have opportunities for performance incentives tied to team academic and athletic achievements.

Smith’s appointment will be presented to the U of I's Board of Trustees for approval on March 16.

“Just as he promised, Josh Whitman is taking bold and decisive action to ensure that Illinois athletics represents the same level of excellence as Illinois academics,” said U of I Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson. “Coach Smith shares our vision for success at the highest level, and I’m delighted to welcome him to the Illinois family.”
The defensive-minded Smith also took the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006 where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts. The Bears fired Smith after the 2012 season.  Smith returns to college football for the first time since 1996 after spending 19 years in the NFL.

Smith spent his first 14 years as a collegiate coach, working at Tulsa (1983-86), Wisconsin (1987), Arizona State (1988-91), Kentucky (1992), Tennessee (1993-94) and Ohio State (1995).
Cubit was 5-7 as Illinois' interim coach last fall.